China's Suning Sports raises $600 million from Alibaba, Goldman

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Suning Sports, the owner of Italian soccer giants Inter Milan, said it has raised $600 million in a series A funding from firms including Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Goldman Sachs.

The sports arm of Chinese retail giant Suning Holdings Group told Reuters on Friday that the funding round did not include Inter Milan and two other local football teams that it owns.

Local media Lanxiong reported earlier that this round of fundraising values Suning Sports at $2.6 billion.

The completion of this demonstrates “the confidence the market has placed upon China sports industry’s future development”, said Suning Sports Vice President Mi Xin, adding the firm would soon start a series B funding round.

The funding comes at a time when the firm is looking to bolster its position in sports media broadcasting. It now has media rights in China for Germany’s Bundesliga, English Premier League and Spanish La Liga, among others.

On Thursday, Suning Sports announced it had signed a strategic partnership with Alibaba, under which the video sites of the companies, Suning’s PPTV and Alibaba-backed Youku, will cooperate on sports content.

Youku recently paid roughly 1.6 billion yuan ($236.25 million) to broadcast the World Cup in China.

Suning Holdings, the parent firm, started as a retailer in China with its listed company and has been aggressively pushing into China’s sports industry.

It also recently led a $2 billion bet to get near monopoly on broadcasting football in China.

Suning acquired a majority stake in Inter Milan in 2016 for 270 million euros ($314.25 million).

(This story corrects Bundesliga spelling.)

Reporting by Pei Li and Adam Jourdan; Editing by Himani Sarkar